Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 3, 2009

THUNE'S CRAZY TUNE.... Republican lawmakers have had plenty of time to work up talking points in opposition to the economic stimulus package. It stands to reason they'd work backwards -- start with the answer (recovery legislation = bad), and then fill in the blanks (why recovery legislation = bad).

But given all of the weeks, arguments, media debates, and spin doctors, a few too many GOP lawmakers nevertheless sound surprisingly moronic.

Take Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), for example, who gave an impassioned speech today -- with colorful charts -- talking about the physical size of a $1 trillion stimulus package. Seriously, watch the clip. Thune goes on and on, hoping to get the point across that if we stacked $100 bills, $1 trillion would be 689 miles high. And if we tied those bills end to end, $1 trillion could wrap the circumference of the planet nearly 39 times.

The point, apparently, is that $1 trillion is a lot of money. Of course, we knew that. Everyone knows that. Even congressional Republicans know that. The point of the argument isn't that a stimulus package would create modestly-sized piles of paper; the point of the argument is that we're facing a global economic catastrophe, which requires a massive government spending bill. If Thune believes otherwise, fine. Let him make the argument. But he's had months to prepare for this debate, and the best he can come up with is superficial, child-like nonsense? This, from a so-called "rising star" in Republican politics?

Put it this way. Estimates vary on the cost of the war in Iraq, but let's say the war has cost about $1 trillion. Thune has supported every penny. If pressed, would he be persuaded to oppose the Bush administration's policy in Iraq based on the size of the piles of money the war costs? Probably not. The point is the merit of the policy.

Calling Thune an "idiot," Josh Marshall called the senator's remarks "painfully stupid." That's true. But just think -- the debate is just getting started. There are hours' worth of Republican speeches to go.

Steve Benen 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

hey if they were talking a trillion dollars in tax cuts for the rich, i'm sure thune wouldn't hesitate a second.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on February 3, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

$1 trillion is a lot of money.

Unless you are talking about unjust resource wars, of course. Then it's a bargain at thrice the price.

Posted by: Blue Girl on February 3, 2009 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

oops - should have read to the end of the post..

Posted by: Blue Girl on February 3, 2009 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

actually, if you think about it, what thune is doing nicely illustrates the depth of the mess we're in. that we're even talking about a stimulus this size is a breathtaking damnation of the stewardship of the economy over the last eight years.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on February 3, 2009 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Thune IS an idiot, but this kind of demagoguery works very well on a big chunk of the public. I hope somebody can come up with some effective counter-messaging instead of just laughing complacently at him (while he cleans our clock politically). Hopefully Obama will make some headway in his new media offensive, but he needs to be getting a lot more help from other Democratic leaders.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on February 3, 2009 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still waiting for a Reublican to offer a solution to the problem besides tax cuts.

Their solution to every thing: A verb, a noun, and tax cuts.

Posted by: Winknandanod on February 3, 2009 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't matter how crazy -- we must concede everything they want!

Bipartisanship!

Posted by: Obama Loves the Steelers on February 3, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

"A verb, a noun, and tax cuts."

Sometimes they don't even bother with the verb and noun.

Posted by: fostert on February 3, 2009 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

but this kind of demagoguery works very well on a big chunk of the public.

Really? Well that's an assertion in search of a reality. Or do you think Obama's campaign, the national conversation and the current climate has actually made it clear that something significant needs to be done? Do you think this has been overlooked?

Posted by: Jay B. on February 3, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Trillion burned in Iraq versus spending a trillion on the USA? You'll get the same RWA answer as always... "oh, that's different"

About the same mentality as the person with the 'pro life' bumper sticker on one side of the car and a 'nuke Iran' sticker on the other.

Posted by: Buford on February 3, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

...this kind of demagoguery works very well on a big chunk of the public

Demogoguery with visual aids is far better than demogoguery without visual aids.

Posted by: Econobuzz on February 3, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if we took all the money lost in the stock market, the incomes lost in the last year, the home values lost, TARP and Fed payouts to banks, etc., if we could line up hundred dollar bills to the Sun.

Posted by: Danp on February 3, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Thune knows all about the stimulative powers of government spending. When Ellsworth AFB was on the Pentagon's list of recommended base closures, Thune fought tooth and nail to make sure the piles of federal dollars kept rolling into his state. He never expressed concern over how high a stack of $100 dollars bills would be save by taxpayers then.

Posted by: petorado on February 3, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Big numbers? How about $183 trillion? That's the CBO's estimate of US GDP over the next 10 years without a stimulus package. Even with interest costs thrown in, the rescue package will cost a fraction of 1% of national income over ten years.

Also worth pointing out that the economic debate about the package is about how large of a multiplier it'll provide in terms of economic output - and all of the estimates are > 1, so as big as a $1 trillion rescue package is, it'll mean even more than that in terms of juice for an economy that's otherwise squeezed dry.

Posted by: TW on February 3, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Thune goes on and on, hoping to get the point across that if we stacked $100 bills, $1 trillion would be 689 miles high.

Dear Senator Thune, if it will make you feel better, we'll use $1,000 dollar bills, which will take up a lot less space. Happy now?

Posted by: RSA on February 3, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Thune's presentation reminds me of a TV campaign ad that Lyndon LaRouche ran, I believe when Bill Clinton first ran against George H.W. Bush in 1992.

In the ad, LaRouche stood with a pointer and a big flip chart with several graphs. His first graph was titled "Bush" and showed a jaggedy line plunging downwards from left to right -- with no indication of what was actually being graphed. He traced the downward-trending line with his pointer, and said "As this graph clearly shows, if Bush is reelected, things will get worse and worse".

His second graph was similar, titled "Clinton", with a slightly different jaggedy downwards line. "This graph," said LaRouche, waving with his pointer, "shows that if Clinton is elected, things will also get worse."

Lastly, he flipped to a graph titled "LaRouche", with a smooth line rising boldly from left to right across the chart. "And this graph," he said, "clearly shows that if I am elected, everything will get better".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 3, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Why didn't a democrat borrow those signs and talk about how much money Bush increased the national debt in his 8 years in office: $4 trillion.

The International Space Station and the space shuttle are in orbit about 350 miles up. So every year, Bush added enough to the national debt to reach the space station with $100 dollar bills. Or end-to-end, enough $100 bills to reach the moon and back every year, or circle the earth every month.

Posted by: tomj on February 3, 2009 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK
Well that's an assertion in search of a reality.
You want reality? A big chunk of the public is so confused by all this stuff that they have the stimulus all mixed up with he bank bailout. That's reality. Get out of your bubble- the 46+% who voted for McCain (and by whom I am mostly surrounded where I live and work in suburban Ohio) haven't changed their minds and would vote for him again in a heartbeat. Astronomical-looking numbers for generic questions about approval of Obama are not translating into strong public support for a stimulus that has yet to be explained properly to them. I'm crossing my fingers for Obama's upcoming media offensive- this really is a critical moment. Posted by: Steve LaBonne on February 3, 2009 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Senator Thune, if it will make you feel better, we'll use $1,000 dollar bills, which will take up a lot less space. Happy now?

Since we own the mint we can just print up a special bill for the occasion. Might have to reduce the point size tho to get all those zeroes on there...

Posted by: Blue Girl on February 3, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

I am seriously concerned the stimulous package is not large enough. I would have thought a trillion dollars would stack at least a thousand miles high and go around the earth at least a hundred times. I now realize a trillion dollars is not as much as I thought, and may not be enough.

Posted by: J Frank Parnell on February 3, 2009 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

I am seriously concerned the stimulous package is not large enough. I would have thought a trillion dollars would stack at least a thousand miles high.

You're forgetting the multiplier.

Posted by: Econobuzz on February 3, 2009 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

The winner in the Stupid Statements About A Trillion dollars is Mitch McConnell's assertion that if you started the day that Jesus was born and spent a million dollars a day until the present, you still could not have spent a trillion dollars.

George W. Bush dropped nearly a trillion inside of 8 years, and McConnell's a disingenuous idiot.

Posted by: Stranger on February 3, 2009 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

I really think this calls for a contest to see who can come up with the best example. For instance:

"If you spent $1 trillion on condoms and laid them end to end, they would stretch ..."

List all assumptions and, please note, your math WILL be checked for accuracy.

Posted by: Econobuzz on February 3, 2009 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

You want reality? A big chunk of the public is so confused by all this stuff that they have the stimulus all mixed up with he bank bailout.

Citation?

That's reality.

That's an assertion pulled out of your ass. It may be true. But you haven't bothered to prove anything other than you find people to be tremendously stupid.

Get out of your bubble- the 46+% who voted for McCain (and by whom I am mostly surrounded where I live and work in suburban Ohio) haven't changed their minds and would vote for him again in a heartbeat.

One wonders then how Obama won Ohio, with all this reality going on. The fact is that people elected Obama overwhelmingly. They support him overwhelmingly, and they don't trust Republicans to do anything.

Now you can believe that stupid props about the physical size of a gigantic sum of money can turn the tide against the support Obama has — or you can point to today's Gallup poll By reporting that 75 percent of Americans support the package in some form, however, the poll finds a higher level of support for a stimulus than past surveys. A Rasmussen poll released on January 21 found that only 45 percent of voters supported the stimulus plan, with 34 percent siding against it. And an earlier poll by Gallup, taken January 6-7, found that only a slight majority of Americans—or 53 percent—favored a stimulus plan. That poll came before Obama released the specifics of his proposal and before either the House or Senate had released drafts of the bill.

But by all means Steve, panic. And tell me I'm the one living in a bubble.

Posted by: Jay B. on February 3, 2009 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

It's not only stupid, it's squirm inducing. This is just more Reagan worship/posturing. Reagan made a very similar speech.

Gross. Dude, you're not Reagan. Get over it.

Posted by: Roq on February 3, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

The amount of worldwide wealth destroyed by financial institutions, enabled by rampant Republican deregulation, comes to about $4 trillion, which would circle the earth 156 times. Which is what I suggest John Thune do.

Posted by: gradysu on February 3, 2009 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

But! But! The debt would be crushing! Just imagine if one of those giant stacks of hundred dollar bills tipped over!!!! No wonder Thume is so terrified!

Posted by: JoeW on February 3, 2009 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

I> if we stacked $100 bills, $1 trillion would be 689 miles high. And if we tied those bills end to end, $1 trillion could wrap the circumference of the planet nearly 39 times.

Typical Republican solution. It wouldn't actually solve the problem, and it would destroy the environment in the meantime.

Posted by: qwerty on February 3, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

But he's had months to prepare for this debate, and the best he can come up with is superficial, child-like nonsense?

On the other hand, perhaps he knows his audience.

Posted by: AK Liberal on February 3, 2009 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

This is a very old gambit, the old "how high would the federal deficit be if $100 bills were stacked end to end" graphic. It's an oldie but goodie straight from the good old Ronald Reagan days. That's why we are seing it again because it worked so well the first time. Republicans are simply ransacking the dusty attics and archieves in search of their "vision for the future."

Posted by: Ted Frier on February 3, 2009 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Oh my gawd...

These people need be shot. Wow, remind me never to go to South Dakota. The stupid obviously sticks. Now if they were 1$ bills does that mean they would wrap around the Earth 3900 times? At the Equator?! Gee whiz, how many "In God we trusts" is that? A billion-trillion? Wow-weeeeeee!

Please kill me now!

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on February 3, 2009 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

I'm guessing this is just the way Thune's staff dumbed it down for him. Pretty much the same way Bush admin. staffers appear to have explained things to him, before sending him out to parrot the talking points.

Posted by: PaminBB on February 3, 2009 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Thune's just channeling Reagan, who when he ran for the presidency the first time, had the flipcharts and pointers about the deficit--it could go to the moon and back like three times.

Of course, when Reagan left office, the deficit spending could go to the moon and back like 8 times. Then, he didn't talk so much.

Posted by: gotoL on February 3, 2009 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Three things re.: "the idiot."

He beat Daschle, he paid his taxes, and he'll be in DC tomorrow.

Posted by: tao9 on February 3, 2009 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

Does Thune know the latest estimates are Bush spent 11.5 TRILLION and all we got was two endless wars and a smoking crater where we once had an economy?

Where was his dog and pony show back then? Or did he have his head stuck too far up Bush's a$$?

Maybe he should sit down, shut up, and let the adults run the country.

Posted by: Glen on February 4, 2009 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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